Welcome to our Monthly Reads section. Each month we will be spotlighting material we have been reading, or that have been recommended to us that relate to AI and a particular theme.
Labour and AI
As May also begins with International Worker’s Day, our theme for the month is AI and labour. Below are 3 books recommended by our team that explore the various ways advancements in AI impact the labour market.
Atlas of AI – Kate Crawford (2021)
We know AI is hungry for human data, but in this book, Crawford shows how AI systems also extract minerals and labour. This month we are paying particular attention to chapter 2 on Labour (pp.53/87) which focuses on Amazon fulfilment warehouses and how AI will manage our time in the future. What will they mean for our working lives and free time?
The rise of Bullshit Jobs – David Graeber (2019)
In 1930 Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advances would have enabled a 15-hour work week in America and the UK. Instead, many people still work 40-hours plus in meaningless jobs. In “Bullshit Jobs” David Graeber asks why? We ask, instead of freeing us from work will AI just make our jobs more bullshit?
Islavery – Jack Qiu (2016)
Jack Qiu examines the linkages and continuities between slavery and the modern-day workers at Foxconn, the company which builds iPhones. He shows how our slavery to technology has driven worsening living conditions. Whilst we usually think of AI as software, it is reliant on hardware and recent reports show that Open AI paid it’s data labellers in Kenya less than $2 an hour.
As June 5th marks World Environment Day, we dedicated this month’s reading to focusing our awareness on the environmental impact of Ai and on issues relating to the development of more Sustainable Ai.
Below are some of the books our team have recommended:
Ai in the Wild: Sustainability in the Age of Artificial Intelligence – Peter Dauvergne (2020)
This book offers a critical perspective on the risks and benefits of using Ai to advance sustainability. Dauvergne provides insight into ways AI technologies have been employed to protect the environment whilst at the same time highlighting failures, and the often hidden social and environmental costs of its development and use.
Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers our Lives – Siddharth Kara (2023)
75% of the world’s cobalt supply is mined in the Congo. Cobalt is an essential component of the batteries that power our smart technologies such as phones, laptops and tablets. In this expose, Kara highlights the toll of cobalt mining on the people and environment of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Blockchain Chicken Farm and Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside – Xiaowei Wang (2020)
This collection of essays explores how technology development plays out in rural China. From pork farmers using Ai in breeding, to the political intersections of e-commerce villages, the ties between globalisation, technology, agriculture and commerce are unravelled here. The essays spark new conversations about innovation, connectivity and collaboration in a digitized rural world.
Smart Cities: Critical Debates on Big Data, Urban Development, and Social Environmental Sustainability – edited by Negin Minaei (2022)
This book examines important issues relating to Smart Cities raising awareness of different environmental aspects of Smart Cities and what is necessary for cities to be able to respond to future challenges including climate change, food insecurity, natural hazards, energy production and resilience.
Digitalization for Sustainability (D4S) Digital Reset: Redirecting Technologies for the Deep Sustainability Transformation – (2023)
This report provides a blueprint for how to reconceptualise digitalisation in a way that enables it to contribute towards actual sustainable transformation. It argues for a digital reset aimed at achieving carbon neutrality, resource autonomy and economic resilience, whilst also respecting citizen's rights.
Is Ai Good for the Planet? – Bendetta Brevini (2021)
In this book Brevini examines Ai through the lens of the environment. Ai has often been portrayed as a public good and a way to solve challenges including the climate crisis. Yet, as Brevini shows it has also contributed to this same crisis by running on technologies that exhaust scarce resources and on data centres that have immense energy requirements.
A city is not a computer: Other urban intelligences – Shannon Mattern (2021)
Mattern explores the idea of ‘smart cities’ and what gets lost when we imagine urban spaces as computers. In this book, she reveals how cities encompass various forms of local and indigenous intelligences and knowledge institutions, vital to correcting the increasingly more popular algorithmic models of urban planning.
Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond: Feminist Ecocriticism of Science Fiction – Douglas A. Vakoch (2021)
Contributors from five continents explore the fictional worlds of Atwood, Butler and others and provide tools to counteract intertwined oppressions of the environment and women to create a more sustainable and habitable world.
Audio Notes: Multispecies Globalisation. How Ai will Pave the Way to Communicate with Other Species – Evaristo Doria
This video can not be shown because you did not accept cookies.You can leave our website to view this video.
AI and Faith
This month’s reading takes us back to one of the main focuses of this project, the relationship between faith and AI. The use of AI in religious practice, and the impact AI has and will have on religion is an ongoing discussion. The rise in religious chatbots and the growing focus on ethical AI are just some areas where the relationship between religion and AI continues to evolve in ever more interesting ways. Below are some of the books we are reading this month, most focus much more closely on Islam and Christianity, though we know these discussions are taking place across different faith spaces. If you have any suggestions of works that look at AI from the lens of other faiths, please feel free to send us your recommendations.
Muslim and Supermuslim: The Quest for the Perfect Being and Beyond – Roy Jackson (2020)
The growing transhumanist movement in its most radical expression imagines humans being replaced by a ‘Superman’. In this book, Jackson looks to Islamic tradition to explore the question of what this ‘superman’ would involve, what does it mean to be human and what can Islam tell us about the future human and how does this tradition respond to the challenges raised by transhumanism?
AI, Faith and the Future : An Interdisciplinary Approach- edited by Michael J. Paulus Jr, Michael D. Langford (2022)
This is a multidisciplinary work that explores the present and future impact of AI and provides technological, philosophical and theological foundations for thinking about AI. Related to this are reflections on the impact of AI on relationships, behavior, education, work and moral action. The book offers a guide to more reflective and ethical design and use of AI from the perspective of Christianity.
Religion and the Technological Future: An Introduction to Biohacking, Artificial Intelligence, and Transhumanism - Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen (2021)
What are the religious and ethical implications of new technological changes such as biohacking, nanotechnology, cryonics, robotics and AI? This book offers perspectives from various religions and applied ethics to explore ethical questions about the use of new technological breakthroughs that are transforming society. The book also includes a survey at the beginning and end which enables readers to reflect on their own levels of acceptance for the application of such technologies on humans.
The Artifice of Intelligence: Divine and Human Relationship in a Robotic Age - Noreen L. Herzfeld (2023)
This book explores what it means to be created in the image of God and to create AI in our image. Again, focusing on AI from a Christian perspective, Herzfeld examines two questions, is it possible for humans to have an authentic relationship with an AI? And, how does the presence of AI change the way we relate to one another as humans?
Cyber Muslims: Mapping Islamic Digital Media in the Internet Age – edited by Robert Rozehnal (2022)
This anthology explores the variety of digital expressions of Muslims from clerics to activists, artists and social media influencers. The case studies take in the vast cultural and geographic landscape of the Muslim world and contextualize cyber Islam within broader social trends.
Implicit Religion Special Issue: Artificial Intelligence and Religion Vol. 20 No. 3 (2017)
This special issue on AI and religion explores some of the ways religion and AI are intertwined and the need for religious studies scholars to engage in further study of AI and religion. Beth Singler’s introductory article lays out three arguments for this, before providing the space for several papers that each engage with the interplay between AI and faith in different ways.
Islamic Ethics and AI
This month we reached out to scholars working more specifically on AI and Islamic ethics to suggest readings for our team.
Our guest curator this month is Dr. Junaid Qadir, Professor of Computer Engineering at Qatar University. He is also director of IHSAN Lab in Pakistan which aims to facilitate human development through technological solutions. His research interests among others include applied machine learning, human-beneficial AI, ethics of technology and engineering education. He has written several articles and worked closely on projects relating to the incorporation of Islamic ethics within AI development.
In his own words:
While these books are not specific to AI, and deal with technology in general, they are relevant for studies critically engaging with AI.
Acknowledgement: Input received for this list from Dr. Amana Raquib, Dr. Jasser Auda is gratefully acknowledged.
Islamic ethics of technology: An objectives (Maqāsid) approach - Amana Raquib (2015)
This book offers a unique exploration of technology through the lens of Islamic ethics. It endeavors to expand the scope of Sharia law by addressing ethical inquiries and dilemmas that surface within our postmodern technological culture, where clear religious-ethical guidelines may be lacking. The book delves into the concept of Maqāsid (objectives) as a universal ethical framework, ripe for interpretation and application in the context of today's global technology landscape. Readers seeking alternatives to the prevailing technological paradigm, particularly those interested in the intersection of Islam and the modern world, and how contemporary ethical challenges in technology are being addressed through ijtihad (independent legal reasoning), will find this book to be a valuable resource.
Comparative theories and methods between uniplexity and multiplexity - R.Şentürk, A. Açıkgenç, Ö. Küçükural, Q.N. Yamamoto et al. (2020)
This book offers a critical and comparative exploration of major social theories and methodologies, unveiling the inherent Eurocentric and Uniplex biases present in conventional social sciences. Within the Uniplex paradigm, the world's complexity is reduced to a singular universal way of understanding and experiencing it, exemplified by positivism, idealism, and scientism. This contrasts with the holistic worldview of Muslim and premodern civilizations, characterized by a multi-layered understanding of reality, knowledge, and truth. The authors advocate for Multiplexity, advocating a more comprehensive approach that encompasses multiplex ontology (recognizing multiple levels of existence), multiplex epistemology (embracing diverse ways and levels of knowing), and multiplex methodology (utilizing a range of methods for theory generation) to better understand the intricacies of phenomena.
Re-envisioning Islamic scholarship: Maqāsid methodology as a new approach - Jasser Auda (2022)
This book represents a serious attempt to outline an Islamic intellectual framework based on a transformative Quranic Worldview. The author describes that the normative Islamic way can only be determined in the backdrop of a detailed systematic study of the Quran, the infallible word of God that represents the divine, eternal perfect message of Islam for all time. The author advocates a five-step holistic methodology encouraging Islamic scholars in all fields to continuously reflect on revelation (Quran and the authentic Hadith) and its objectives (maqāsid) through a deep understanding of concepts, values, commands, universal laws, and proofs. The book also proposed a move from the tradition of Maqāsid Al-Shariah to the more comprehensive and authentic paradigm of Maqāsid Al- Quran (Quranic Objectives) noting that the former now also suffers from the same limitations (namely: imitation, partialism, apologism, contradiction, and deconstruction) that mainstream disciplines suffer from.
Islam, Muslims, and modern technology. Islam & Science, 3(2), 109-127 - S.H. Nasr (2005)
Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr offers a thought-provoking critique of modern technology, underscoring the grave peril it poses to the environment and the human habitat—an issue of paramount concern for humanity. Furthermore, the author delves into the impact of postmodern technology on time-honored crafts and the spiritual well-being of individuals. Within these insights, the author imparts valuable recommendations for safeguarding the vital facets of human civilization.
Technology in Muslim moral philosophy. Journal of religion and health, 55(2), 369-383 - E. Moosa (2016)
This article delves into the position, role, and significance of technology within the realm of Muslim moral philosophy. The author highlights how our cognitive processes are inevitably influenced by both our tools and the environment we inhabit. It is argued that technology, broadly defined as the knowledge and instruments employed by humans to enhance the quality of life, is deeply ingrained in Islamic ethical discourse. The author draws upon early Muslim encounters with technology to elucidate the theological foundations of using technology for the betterment of human existence. Additionally, the article examines the distinctions between modern technology and its premodern predecessors, shedding light on how technology shapes our conceptions of personhood, consciousness, and value.
AI versus Human Consciousness: A Future with Machines as Our Masters. Renovatio - F. Muhammad (2022)
This article delves into the challenges presented by AI and the ongoing debate surrounding the feasibility of achieving AI with human-level consciousness. The author contends that consciousness, when correctly comprehended, inherently involves a subject, and that artificial neural networks can, at most, provide a representation of consciousness, with the subject itself remaining elusive. Furthermore, the article explores the profound philosophical inquiry into AI, underscoring the pivotal role our values play in shaping our definitions of consciousness, intelligence, soul, self, personhood, and ultimately, what it means to be human in a world increasingly driven by technology.
Islamic virtue-based ethics for artificial intelligence. Discover Artificial Intelligence, 2(1), 11 - A. Raquib, B. Channa, T. Zubair and J. Qadir (2022)
This paper critically analyzes contemporary AI approaches which proceed on a vision of innovation for the sake of novelty, profit, or economic growth that is grounded in neoliberal capitalistic thinking. This paper next positions a holistic Islamic virtue ethics approach for AI grounded in the context of Islamic objectives (maqāṣid) as an alternative ethical system for AI governance. The paper also summarizes the findings and salient points of agreement among Islamic AI ethical community on the purpose, development, and governance of AI systems based on the discussion during the First International Conference on Islamic Ethics and AI organized in Lahore, Pakistan in December 2021.